BY RUTH CHOJI
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha represents Taraba South Senatorial District. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the deputy minority leader speaks on some controversial issues, including President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter which transmitted power to the vice president, anti-corruption war, among others.
Some senators raised concerns on the floor of the Senate over some aspect of President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter which stated that the vice president should be the co-ordinator of the economy. What actually happened?
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with the letter. The fundamental thing is that it was guided by section 145 of the constitution and the president referred to it. So whether it is a matter of diction or whatever, the important thing is that the appropriate section was quoted. As a lawmaker, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
Some Nigerians have been calling on him to resign so he can tend to his health. Do you support such call?
I won’t support that call because I have not seen the president in a situation where one can say, he needs to resign. Sickness can come upon anybody. The man is above 70years, so we don’t expect him to be running around like a 35-year- old man. The president won on his integrity and strong will to face situation and deal with it.
But has he been doing that?
That is a different thing. I am telling you why he won the election. I don’t think there is anything wrong in allowing him time to go and receive medical treatment and come back to office.
The APC government will soon mark two years in office. How would you assess its performance so far?
I am in the opposition and there is no doubt that we haven’t seen the change they advocated for. It is understandable. Again, I am also aware that the economy is in bad shape. This is the situation the government met on assumption of office. So I don’t want to be political on their achievements. I know that the government came and met challenges. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for them to keep blaming the previous regime. They ought to have hit the ground running quickly as soon as they assumed office. That was another missing link. But I am part of the government. So an outsider is in a better position to judge the government because it is not the exclusive preserve of the executive. It’s a tripod thing that has the executive, legislators and judiciary.
The federal government has rolled out an economic plan but some Nigerians seem to think it is belated. What’s your view?
The economic plan you are talking about was initiated by the parliament as our contribution towards addressing the recession of the economy. We wanted to address leakages in the system. Corruption is also an aspect that has to be dealt with if we will succeed as a government. I think with the TSA and other measures we have been taking in the Senate, where we exposed some individuals, it will go a long way to address the problems.
Does this mean the government is winning the war against corruption?
My take on the ongoing war on corruption is that it is better we start now than not start at all. I don’t believe in those who say the war is not succeeding. The war is succeeding. If you call it a one-sided war, I have no quarrel about that because to some extent, it is true that most of the victims are perceived to be from one side of the political divide. But one day, the divide might change because if you are witch-hunting me and I get power, I will definitely witch-hunt you and if this continues to a level, it will be difficult for a Nigerian to dip his hand into the treasury because you can never tell who will be in government tomorrow. That is why it is good to start the war than not at all.
Talking about divide, do you believe that the PDP can regain its lost glory anytime soon?
I always say that there is no PDP or APC. It is just a set of Nigerians who are moving about. To me, the idea of the two parties is vague, it doesn’t make sense. Look at the people in APC and see if there is anybody you can say is truly in one party. Except for President Buhari and a few others, most members in APC are former PDP members who defected as political tourists. As for change, I am very optimistic that one government cannot keep power perpetually in Nigeria. The APC is a conglomeration of strange bed fellows that have called their bluff and now, Christmas is over for them. It’s members will soon find their bearing and then we will witness another round of decamping.
You mentioned the TSA. Should government continue to save money in the TSA when the economy is in recession and Nigerians wallow in hardship?
You save to spend…
But are they spending the money?
That is what we will wait to see in the budget which was passed last Thursday.
Do you think the CBN can sustain the forex it has been pumping into the system?
It is an argument for another day. But for now, the CBN has made significant impact with their ingenuity. This is what ought to have been done before. Now the CBN has lived up to its mandate. The CBN can play a key role in the agriculture sector which has been subjected to neglect. If we had focussed on this sector, I am sure we would have avoided what we are going through now. If other CBN governors had done what the present one is doing, Nigeria would have been better.
In your estimation, what will it take it take to get Nigeria out of recession?
We, as a parliament, have presented our part. I am a principal officer in the parliament. People look at the fight against corruption as if it is the exclusive preserve of the president, but we have keyed into it. I have personally moved a motion to give Mr President support on the fight against corruption. Truly, that is one major enemy of Nigeria. Everybody appears to be corrupt in Nigeria; it has become an official language. It is in the media, academia, legislature and executive. Corruption is smelling and everybody can perceive the smell. It is just for us to get to the root cause of the smell, but nobody is interested.
Some have advocated for the creation of special court that will try treasury looters while many others seem to think that capital punishment will deter people more than other punishment. Do you subscribe to these positions?
Capital punishment or not, I subscribe to the view that we create a special court that will handle corrupt cases because the fire wall going on in the courts actually delay a lot of corruption cases. This has affected the fight against corruption. A lot of technicalities have been brought in to bear such that you find somebody who has stolen billions of naira walking freely on the streets. Meanwhile, the case is hanging there in court. Instead, you will see a man that stole N25,000 being sentenced to five years imprisonment. There is need for us to kick- start a legislative instrument that will move us in a new direction.
Herdsmen and farmers clashes are increasing by the day. How disturbing is this for you?
I am deeply worried because it is a new form of terrorism. I think the Boko Haram elements are being smart. Nigerians need to know this. I have said it several times that the people they call herdsmen are not herdsmen, they are the Boko Haram insurgents who parade themselves as herdsmen. They know that when they call them Fulani herdsmen, it will generate crises because the Fulani tribe is one of the three major tribes in Nigeria. Nigerians are very good at blind sentiments. As far as they are concerned, their brother can never do anything wrong. I think the herdsmen are being smart, why have the herdsmen menace heightened at this period of global concern for terrorism? I think Nigerians have to wake up and know that we have won the battle against Boko Haram, but we have not won the war against terrorism. It is now going on in the form of herdsmen.
Is there any way this problem can be resolved?
When you are convinced that these people are not herdsmen but Boko Haram members, then you face them squarely. Which herdsmen carry sophisticated arms and confront the security apparatus? Which herdsmen are allowed to carry AK47? The other day, the president gave a blanket order that they be arrested and prosecuted, and if possible fired at. Yet, we have not seen any of this happen. These people are not herdsmen. They are insurgents. Even if we refuse to accept it, one day we will agree. That was how we doubted Boko Haram